‘White-Collar Refugees’ in Their Own Country
Canadian values, such as multiculturalism and international initiatives, are the values that appeal to most immigrants to this country aside from good education and healthcare programs for the citizens. However, Marina Jimenez, a reporter from The Globe and Mail, warns us about the desperation of new immigrants: “Thousands of eager immigrants arrive in Canada only to discover that their education and professional credentials are almost worthless. The situation is so bad that this week an Edmonton couple decided to sue the federal government.” (F9).
A study by Statistics Canada has shown that as in the past decade the immigrants are still the major drivers of the labour force growth (“High”). This study has also shown that between 1991 and 2001 their contributions for labour growths are 90%, 60%, and 61% in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, consecutively. And yet, Jimenez found from a recent Statistics Canada study that 70% of 164,200 immigrants who arrived in 2000 and 2001 faced problems to penetrate the labour force. The trends of potential problems arisen from this issue have been made aware by academics, public policy analysts, and other independent non-profit organizations. Thus, Canada’s authorities and regulatory institutions should take more active action to address the underutilization of the current influx of immigrants with foreign-trained experience. Failure to address this issue can pose serious threat to the future of the country. Major consequences include the failure to tap potential high-skill and experienced professional immigrants, the double loss to other countries, the inevitable decline in the quality of life, and the serious but risky contributing factor to the country’s future.
Underutilized professional immigrants. First, it is a tragedy to witness many valuable skills and experiences of recent immigrants are wasted in low-skill jobs. And it is quite an irony when their skills are the answer to the country’s shortage in some important fields. This irony has been widely known through media coverage and studies conducted by Statistics Canada, academics, and various non-profit organizations.
All immigrants come to Canada with high hope and expectation. They believe that Canada has premium quality in all aspects of life. And, with their credentials they believe that they can make contribution to the new country. But, once they arrive, the reality strikes! It strikes very hard. It is beyond their comprehension that when they look around they find many capable doctors, engineers, lawyers, nurses, and teachers, are delivering pizzas, mopping floor in the grocery stores, driving taxis, or working as security guards for high-rise residential building. Most of the times these high-skill professional immigrants were entrapped in low-skill jobs for the rest of their lives. When they apply for work they face major hurdle. Their credentials worth less than they expect. Jeffrey Reitz, a sociologist at the University of Toronto has found that employers in professional fields often discount the immigrants’ credentials on the grounds of their unknown educational qualifications. Although Reitz believes that Canada’s employment market has to catch up with the reality of globalization (“High”). The backlogs in professional accreditation institutions are huge and have caused the frustration in both public and private sectors dealing with immigrants. Joan Atlin, of the Association of International Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (AIPSO), has acknowledged about the slow licensing process for these high-skill immigrants: “That’s why we’re arguing that we don’t so much have a doctor shortage in the province as we have a licensing bottleneck” (O’Connor).
A double loss. If the trends of underemployed, questionable credentials, and accreditation backlog prolong without any effective pro-active measures, then Canada can likely suffer a double loss to other countries. The first loss comes from the underutilization of these high-skill professionals. The second loss comes from immigrants who choose to leave for the United States The United States has been more flexible in tapping these high-skill immigrants, noted Jimenez. O’Connor from the Ottawa Citizen quoted Mengistab Tsegaye, of LASI/World Skills, a job agency for immigrant: “Skilled immigrants are coming here, they are accessing our services and a year or two later they move to the States. We’re losing twice. So why did we recruit them in the first place?”
These high-skill immigrants could return to their native country. Joan Atlin, executive director of AIPSO says that Dr. Muhammad Rafiq, a Pakistani doctor who found this association in 1998 has since moved back to Pakistan with his family where he teaches medicine at a university (O’Connor). Prem Benimadhu, the Vice President of the Conference Board of Canada says that in the future Canada will also compete with countries such as France, Italy and the United Kingdom for skilled workers (“Census”).
Decline in premium quality of life. Furthermore down the road, this issue will strike and erode our everyday quality of life. There is no denying that the current immigration policy is deemed as the answer to the population issue in Canada: aging workforce, smaller Canadian families and a declining birth rate. The growing number of aging people needs more attention to their well being. Remember, most of them are the Baby Boomers (1947 to 1966) who are used to premium quality of life and have more disposable income, and to a lesser extent also the Depression Babies (1930 to 1939) and The World War II Generation (1940 to 1946).
In “Boom, Bust and Echo: Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century” David K. Foot even writes a chapter dedicated to this issue. He says that Canada’s health care system needs major reconstructive surgery to adapt to the needs of an aging population. The aging population needs more care and attention:
Reliance on doctors turns upward in a person’s 40s and continues to increase gradually. Those in their late 70s need doctors twice as often as their lifetime average and those in their late 80s need them 2.5 times as often. Reliance on hospitals increases sharply in the mid-50s. By their late 70s, people use hospitals five times more than their lifetime average rate of use. Those who survives until their late 80s use hospitals 12 times more than their lifetime average. (Foot 222)
An older population is more demanding and more knowledgeable about the products and services it needs and is less willing to tolerate poor service. On the other hand, Canada also has to be aware about the growing number of multi-ethnic immigrants that also needs professionals who understand their needs. In the last decade Canada has become more colorful and is proud to acknowledge the mosaic heritage of all the citizens. Yet, it is very slow to response to the changing and growing trends that come from this pride of multiculturalism. The underutilization has a very serious implication not to the immigrants themselves but also to the whole country. We have to be aware that the sooner we integrate them to our society the better we fortify racial unity.
A doom outlook into the country’s future. And finally, in the long term this issue will likely contribute a threat to the future of Canada. The study by Statistics Canada on earnings and education has reported deterioration in every income measure for immigrants (“Immigrants”). What is quite troublesome is the fact that e
ven with knowledge of an official language, English or French, the gap is widened too. These immigrants were earning less than the Canadian average. In 1990 they can close the gap in seven years. But it takes ten years for the 2000’s immigrants to achieve the Canadian average. The findings of this study also recognized the trend of widening gap in every income measure, for both men and women, for both high-skill and low-skill jobs. It is not a pretty picture. Especially if the country awares that in the near future it will rely upon the immigrants and their offspring to carry out a mandate as a nation to the future. This widening gap can become a potential dividing and segregation walls among citizens of the country. It is a gloomy prediction that most likely affects the whole pivotal strength of the country.
In conclusion, many studies, reports, and articles have shown that Canada has been too slow to address the underutilization of the current influx of immigrant with foreign-trained experience. Most of people in public sectors and all immigrants are aware of this issue. The stake is high: our future as a country, as a nation. We need a multi-facet approach to address it. We need a consensus across a broad and diverse group of people including leaders who have influence with various political parties and various levels of government. There are more programs to address the needs of the new residents in this country but yet it is not smooth and fast enough to integrate them into the mainstream society. Thus, we need to establish a holistic approach to this issue. It is heartwarming to hear that the Liberal Party’s economic platform is to work with professional and trade associations to accelerate the entry of skilled new Ontarians into the workforce. Their goal is to eliminate major barriers within one year. And that they want to make use of the talent, rather than keeping them in low-paying jobs where their real talents are not utilized.
Census Forecasts Job Shortages within a Decade: Immigrants to Fill Key Jobs. The Canadian Press. 10 November 2003. http://www.canada.com/search/story
Foot, David K. and Daniel Stoffman. Boom, Bust & Echo: Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited, 2000.
High Skill Immigrants Drive labour Force Growth. But Job Prospects Still Grim. The Canadian Press. 11 February 2003. 11 November 2003. http://www.canada.com/search/story
Immigrants Better Educated but Earning Less than a Decade Ago. Lost Ground by just about Every Income Measure. The Canadian Press. 11 March 2003. 11 November 2003. http://www.canada.com/search/story
Jimenez, Marina. “We are capable people.” The Globe and Mail October 25, 2003: F9.
O’Connor, Elaine. ‘Licensing Bottleneck’: Accreditation Hurdles Prevent Foreign-trained Doctors from Using Skills. The Ottawa Citizen. 13 October 2003. 10 November 2003. http://www.canada.com/search/story
This is an example of Analytical Essay.